Rediscovering the Bronx

16 August 2011

The last time I went to the Bronx was when my father took my older brother and I to a Yankees game. I think it was the late 50s. It bored me to death, and probably was a contributing factor to my becoming a lacrosse player.

This trip was different. The taxi driver picked me up at midtown Manhattan, and asked me three times if he got the address right: “You said East 168th Street. The Bronx, right?”

It reminded me of the time Lorraine and I went to Paris on the heels of a terrorist attack and the driver asked our nationality. “British? Canadian?” And finally, incredulous: “American? Ah, you are the only ones!”

In some ways the Bronx puts its worst face forward on the north side of the Harlem River, which you cross over rusted, decaying bridges that look like your vehicle is the last one they will tolerate before collapsing into the river. There is a massive “History Channel” sign erected atop an abandoned, crumbling brick factory which, at first sight, has you thinking: “So the History Channel has it’s headquarters in the Bronx?” Until you realize it was just a cheap place to get the attention of the drivers travelling East and West, on their way up to New England or New Jersey.

If I was predisposed — through years of hearing nothing but horror stories out of the Bronx — to find myself in a running gun battle between rival drug gangs, what I saw upon reaching my destination was a line of pre-school children filing down the street, recent graduates of a Headstart program sponsored by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo). They all had ribbons pinned to their shirts and dresses, an indication of their achievement and a recognition that they were now better prepared to succeed when they entered one of the public grade schools.

We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Rupert Scofield


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